Living the Ideal?

I asked some questions last week about the ways in which Christianity engages or fails to engage culture.  One reader responded by writing that Christians have often made the mistake of trying to turn their faith and the church into an ideal rather than allowing it to be what it was intended to be, a living, transformational experience with Christ.

This practice of trying to make the Christian faith or the church an ideal reminded me of two quotes, the first by Albert Schweitzer and the second by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

“History can destroy the present, or reconcile the present to the past.  It can even, to an extent, allow the present to project itself into the past, but it cannot construct the present.”  And I would add that neither can history construct the future.

“The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself.  He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly…When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure.  When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash.  So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself…Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”

For all the times that Christians have turned the faith into an ideal,  how often has that ideal become a pseudo-gospel that shuts others out?

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